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Showing posts from January, 2010

The Face of Afghanistan (10) - Fleeing Home

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Millions of Afghans had to flee from their home and leave behind their possessions, their families, and their friends. Today, Afghans are the second largest group of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world - after Palestinians. Over a quarter of the country’s population has sought refuge outside of the country prompting the United Nations to declare Afghanistan the major site of human displacement in the world.

During the war with the URSS the number of Afghan refugees abroad escalated dramatically with as many as 2.5 to 3 million in Pakistan and another 1.5 million in Iran alone. About 150,000 were able to migrate permanently to other places including the United States, Australia, and various European countries.

In addition, there were over one million internally displaced persons in Afghanistan in the same period. The majority have now returned to their place of origin, but the southern and western parts of the country still hosted in 2005 approximately 200,000 of …

The Face of Afghanistan (9) - Born to Die Young

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Afghans can expect to live less than 45 years which is at least 20 years lower than all of neighboring countries and 6 years lower than the averages of the Least Developed Countries. It is also what the western world expected to live a century ago.

Infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Twenty percent of the children die before the age of five, and one woman dies from pregnancy-related causes every 30 minutes.

The main causes of death among children are diarrhea, respiratory tract in-fections, and measles.

In the midst of this mayhem, Afghans are ironically lucky in only one thing: their ignorance prevents them from realizing that over 80 percent of these deaths are preventable. Knowing they are dying unnecessarily would perhaps be an even heavier burden to bear.


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The Face of Afghanistan (8): A Life of Fear

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Imagine a day of fear. Now imagine a life of it.

Very few places in the world can compare to Afghanistan when it comes to insecurity and threats to people’s lives: pervasive and abject poverty and destitution, extremely poor health and nutrition, massive population displacements, a degraded environment, and widespread distrust in dysfunctional state institutions. This is the background on which human rights are the victim of the repression perpetrated by armed groups, ethnic discrimination, political intimidation, and abuses related to land, movement, and participation rights.

This is Afghanistan today. Right now while you are reading this page, the people of these images are trying to survive.



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The Face of Afghanistan (7): Broken Promises and Wrong Choices

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Had we invested in supporting the development of Afghan’s civil society, we might have prevented terrorism to be harbored here and reduced the odds of events such as September 11. And, of course, we would have spared Afghanistan decades of hell.

Afghanistan is still waiting for us to deliver on our promises. In a famous UN session decades ago, the rich world pledged to spend 0.7% of their national income for direct development aid. We pledged to spend money for the target country and in that country. Business investments and loans were supposed not to count as they are simply money that will give investors a yield over time.

Only a handful of donors have achieved that. Despite what the public opinion may have been led to believe, experts estimate that the US has been contributing only 0.15% – a gap of, in 2005 dollars, over 50 billion dollars per year. The US accounts for half of the missing development budget - Germany, the UK, Italy, France together for 20%, and Japan for another…